Types Of Poems

There are three main types of poems: narrative, dramatic and lyrical. Narrative poetry tells a story. Dramatic poetry is used in plays with dramatic action. Lyric poetry expresses a person’s state of mind or attitude.

See our how to write poetry for beginners guide!

Categorization of poems by Structure and subject


Tercets are any three lines of poetry, whether as a stanza or as a poem, rhymed or unrhymed, metered or unmetered. The haiku is a tercet poem. Haiku- a Japanese, three-line form generally about nature and the seasons or which incorporates such related imagery.

The first and third lines have five syllables, whereas the second has seven. Haikus don’t have to rhyme and are usually written to evoke a particular mood or instance.  


Like haikus, you’re likely to encounter acrostic poems at school! But that doesn’t mean they’re boring – in fact, far from it! This type of poetry spells out a name, word, phrase or message with the first letter of each line of the poem. It can rhyme or not, and typically the word spelt out, lays down the theme of the poem. Why not try it with the silliest word you can think of – it can be really fun!


Free verse is a popular style of modern poetry, and as its name suggests there is a fair amount of freedom when it comes to writing a poem like this. Free verse can rhyme or not, it can have as many lines or stanzas as the poet wants, and it can be about anything you like! So, while free verse may sound simple enough, the lack of rules makes this form of poetry tricky to master!  Originally from France the vers libre tends to follow the rhythm of natural speech.

Click here for examples of freestyle poems!

Prose Poetry

Prose poetry is poetry written in prose form instead of verse form, while preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery, parataxis, and emotional effects. It combines lyrical and metric elements of traditional poetry with idiomatic elements of prose, such as standard punctuation and the lack of line breaks.

Click here for examples of prose poetry!


The ode is one of the oldest forms of poetry and believed to have come from ancient Greece. Yep – yonks ago! The word ‘ode’ is derived from the Greek word ‘aeidein’ which means ‘to sing or chant’, and these poems were originally performed with a musical instrument.

One typically writes an ode to praise a person, event or thing (you could write an ode to your pet or favorite food!) and they are usually quite short in length.

See examples of odes here!


An elegy may be of different kinds-personal, impersonal or pastoral. An elegy doesn’t have rules like some of the other forms of poetry but it does have a set subject: death. They are usually written about a loved one who has passed away, but can also be written about a group of people, too. Although they can sound sad, elegies often end on a hopeful note, hooray!

Not to be confused with eulogies or obituaries which are time-sensitive. A eulogy is a speech or piece of writing to praise or honor someone, typically a person who has recently passed away. A eulogy is not as time-sensitive as an obituary, but it does have a short due date. Unlike a eulogy, an elegy might be written months or years after a death occurs.


An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person. Strictly speaking, it refers to text that is inscribed on a tombstone or plaque, but it may also be used in a figurative sense. Some epitaphs are specified by the person themselves before their death, while others are chosen by those responsible for the burial.

See examples of epitaphs here!


An epic poem, or simply an epic, is a lengthy narrative poem typically about the extraordinary deeds of extraordinary characters who, in dealings with gods or other superhuman forces, gave shape to the mortal universe for their descendants.

Blank Verse

Blank verse is poetry written with regular metrical but unrhymed lines, almost always in iambic pentameter. It is a rhythmic pattern that consists of ten syllables per line, with alternating stressed and unstressed syllables.

See more on Literary Techniques of Repetition With Poetic Example!

Categorization of Poems by Rhyme Schemes

A rhyme scheme is the ordered pattern of rhymes at the ends of the lines of a poem or verse. To see the complete list pf rhyme schemes with examples click here! For this section we chose the five most popular schemes.


William Shakespeare The Sonnets

This very old form of poetry was made famous by none other than William Shakespeare, but the sonnet actually originated in 13th century Italy where it was perfected by the poet Petrarch. The word ‘sonnet’ is derived from the Italian word ‘sonnetto’ which means ‘little song’. Traditionally, sonnets are made up of 14 lines and usually deal with love. As a rule, Petrarchan (Italian) sonnets follow an ABBA ABBA CDE CDE rhyme scheme, whereas Shakespearean (English) sonnets are typically ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. But of course, feel free to break the rules!

Petrarchan Sonnet

The Petrarchan sonnet, also known as the Italian sonnet, is a sonnet. The name comes from the Italian poet Francesco Petrarca, although he not develop the sonnet himself, but rather by a string of Renaissance poets.

See example here!


The villanelle is another very old form of poetry that came from France and has lots of rules. It is made up of 19 lines; five stanzas of three lines (tercet) each and a final stanza of four lines (quatrain). As you can see from the rhyme scheme; ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA, this type of poem only has two rhyming sounds. Plus, there is a lot of repetition throughout the villanelle. Line one will be repeated in lines six, 12 and 18; and line three will be repeated in lines nine, 15 and 19. So although this takes out the extra work of having to write 19 individual lines, the real challenge is to make meaning out of those repeated lines! 


Limericks are funny (and sometimes rude!) poems. The became popular because of Edward Lear in the 19th century. They have a set rhyme scheme of AABBA, with lines one, two and five all being longer in length than lines three and four. The last line is often the punchline. Their sound is very distinctive, it’s likely you’ve heard or read one before!


The ballad is another old and traditional form of poetry that typically tells a dramatic or emotional story. They came from Europe in the late Middle Ages. Ballads were initially passed down from one generation to another, and often with music. Ballads do have a set form; they are typically four lines (quatrain) and have a rhyme scheme of ABAB or ABCB. However, this form is looser than others so can be modified to suit a writer’s needs. Most modern pop songs you hear nowadays are ballads too!

See the Top 22 Most Poetic Taylor Swift Lyrics!

A short poetry glossary

Stanza = a set amount of lines in poetry grouped together by their length, meter or rhyme scheme.

Couplet = a two-line stanza.

Tercet = a three-line stanza.

Quatrain = a four-line stanza.

Cinquain = a five-line stanza.

Sestet = a six-line stanza.

Meter = the pattern of stressed syllables (long-sounding) and unstressed syllables (short-sounding) in poetry.

Rhyme scheme = the pattern of rhyme that comes at the end of each line or verse.

Syllable = the single, unbroken sound of a spoken or written word.

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